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WaterAid Zambia Blog 2015 - Day One

Water Aid Zambia 2015                                               Day 1 - Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity

They say that thirteen is unlucky for some, but it was a group of thirteen very lucky feeling Scottish Water employees who met at Glasgow Airport on Saturday night in preparation for our trip to Zambia - an opportunity of a lifetime. It is an opportunity to get a glimpse into the lives of the people in Zambia, people who are directly impacted by the fantastic work that all the people back home in Scottish Water contribute to via bake sales, bike rides, Munroe Challenges, WaterAid Auctions and many other wonderful ways. I think it is also safe to say that we are all also feeling really lucky that thirteen people from such difference walks of life around the business have gelled from the get go. Our days together have already been filled with laughter, which is extremely important given the harrowing and undoubtedly life-changing experiences we anticipate. As in 2015, 1 in 10 people still live without access to safe water, 1 in 3 people still do not have access to sanitation and every day 1400 children die because they do not have access to safe water and sanitation. We will witness the reality of these facts and we will do our best to bring them to life for you too.

So, on Saturday we met (mostly!) on time at the airport and after the obligatory SWelfie (#SWambia15) proceeded to check-in where we were advised of a two hour delay. This was due to a medical emergency on the in-coming flight and also meant we had small chance of making our connecting flight to Lusaka. However, in team spirit, we counted ourselves lucky that we had the opportunity to be part of the trip and our thoughts were with the person who had taken ill. So we sat down to a team building dinner instead and the two hours flew in - with some free entertainment thrown in by the departing football fans. 

As we waited to board the plane, there were last minute dashes to the toilet, and I overheard comments from other passengers such as “I don’t really want to go in the plane toilets unless I have to” and suddenly these throwaway remarks had me contemplating what we were heading towards. The team had gathered around one of the water vending machines awaiting our call when an Australian tourist approached. She struggled with the machine, had inserted her card but couldn’t get it to work. She was tired, frazzled and turned to myself and Ricky and said desperately, “I’m just exhausted and I just need water”. We tried to follow the instructions for this fancy contact-less enabled vending machine, but in the end I just put in the coins and gave her a bottle. She was extremely grateful.

This small encounter reminded me of the importance of sustainability in the work that WaterAid do. Here we had a fancy water machine with all the modern technology. However, we didn’t know how to use it, and when it wouldn’t work for us it was because we didn’t have a contactless card to make payment.  That’s why when WaterAid install new water supplies in communities they ensure they use local people, they ensure they are trained to operate it and that they use parts that are accessible to the local community.

I’m also pretty sure that there is a joke in there somewhere about how many Scottish Water employees it takes to work a vending machine!  However, for now it was time to board the plane and as we walked on board someone piped up from the back “It’s really warm”- in Glasgow, in October Zambia - here we come!